Ein Esel weniger

PARIS – „Wenn das Gesetz so etwas annimmt“, sagt Mr. Bumble in Oliver Twist, „dann ist das Gesetz ein Esel.“ Jahrzehntelang hat das Verleumdungsrecht Großbritanniens diesen Erwartungen Bumbles voll entsprochen. Aber im April, als dieses Recht durch das Parlament revidiert wurde, gab dies der Meinungsfreiheit in der ganzen Welt Auftrieb – und stellte das Vertrauen in die britische Vernunft wieder her.

Vorher führten Unternehmen und Individuen aus aller Welt, die vermeintlich diffamiert worden waren, Verleumdungsprozesse vor britischen Gerichten – sogar dann, wenn sie oder die angeblichen Diffamierer nur wenig oder gar keine Verbindung mit dem Vereinigten Königreich hatten. Diese Vorgehensweise war weithin als „Verleumdungstourismus“ bekannt.

Viele Ankläger in solchen Prozessen – russische und ukrainische Oligarchen, arabische Prinzen, afrikanische Diktatoren oder skrupellose Unternehmensführer – hatten wenig Chancen auf einen Sieg. Aber es ging nicht darum, zu gewinnen. Oft verfügten die Angeklagten über viel weniger Ressourcen, was bedeutete, dass ein Verleumdungsprozess, der beiden Seiten erhebliche Kosten verursachte, selbst ohne Chancen auf Erfolg eine effektive Methode darstellte, Kritiker mundtot zu machen. Im Vereinigten Königreich selbst führte das Gesetz dazu, dass viele wichtige Themen nicht vollständig debattiert werden konnten.

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